Meet the Team | Isabelle Payne
Welcome to the latest installment of our meet the team series, where we get to know the amazing people behind The Finish Line. This time, we’ll be chatting to our Finishing Artist, Isabelle Payne.
According to Isabelle, getting into the industry was kind of an accident. She was a sound engineer and music producer, originally part of the grime and pirate radio scene in the early 2000s before going travelling for a year in 2005. When she got back from her year of travel she then got a job as a Protools operator at Discovery Channel and moved into broadcast QC. Before long, she was supervising the department and involved in a huge media management system project.
What was meant as a stop-gap job turned into a 12-year career overhaul.
Still from short film ‘What if’, which was finished by Isabelle
How challenging was it to break into the industry? What skills were important?
I prefer being a “doer” rather than a manager, so after my time at Discovery Channel I took a leap of faith and found a job at Onsight as the QC lead, with the intention of working my way back into audio. That’s when I met Maggie, who now works as a Finishing Artist at The Finish Line. I met Maggie at Onsight and we became really good friends. She introduced me to the world of colour and it excited me the same way sound did all those years ago.
The skills learned as a studio-based producer/engineer are surprisingly transferable to being a picture-finishing artist. You are in a room with someone, and you’re driving the equipment to help them create something. You need to know how to confidently control the software and equipment in front of you, and to be able to strike up a rapport and interpret the client’s vision into something tangible.
What drew you to The Finish Line?
The reputation! Zeb is a genius and Maggie had nothing but great things to say about working here. I’m learning so much from a brilliant team.
What are your favourite parts of the job?
Colour, 100%. I love grading. I would do it as a hobby, so being paid to do something I love is a rare privilege. I love making pretty pictures, I love bouncing ideas around and collaborating with my clients to take their ideas and make them into a reality.
Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?
I am very active in the London queer scene, I have a lot of trans, non binary and queer friends and run a support/networking group for trans and non-binary people based in London. I also collect tattoos, I ride a motorcycle, I love film and music… and I love hanging out with my girlfriend or dressing up with her in something fabulous and matchy and hitting the town. I also have a ginger cat called Jones (I named her after Ripley’s cat in Alien which is my favourite film) and cuddling up with her to watch a box set while she chews my hair and pushes my stuff off the table.
Still from ‘Lady Show Me’, a music video for Quiet Storm that Isabelle helped deliver
Do you have any advice for people looking to follow a similar career path?
My advice would be not to be too laser-focussed on one thing while you’re new to the industry, especially if you’re working your way up. Be open to trying lots of things and if you find something you love, then roll your sleeves up and get stuck in. I started in sound but found as much joy in picture, doing something that a decade ago seemed like some kind of dark magic. Yet actually it is incredibly similar.
I’d also advise anyone looking to follow a similar career path to:
- Be pushy, have pointy elbows. It’s a competitive industry and you need to be self driven. Your competition certainly is.
- Take time to learn your craft. When you find something you enjoy doing you need to put some of your free time into learning it. I had to spend a couple of years grading footage in my own time to really get a feel for it and to start getting the results that would allow me to move into the job.
What about tips or techniques for other artists?
If you’re just starting out, try not to overthink it or overwork the footage too early on. Primary grading is where most of the magic happens. DaVinci Resolve has a million tools to help you refine and fine-tune the picture, but putting windows on to track objects and keying faces before your primary grade is right will only take you down a rabbit hole.
Wowing a client with fancy tricks is great if you have time at the end of the session, but ultimately time is money and you need to be able to work quickly and effectively to get the best result most of all. Lift, gamma and gain are where 95% of grading happens for me. All the fancy stuff comes after and should rarely even be needed if you get those three fundamental controls right from the start.
Where do you see yourself in a year’s time?
Hopefully still at The Finish Line and learning yet more skills from Zeb, Dave and the rest of the team.
I don’t want to be a high-flying executive business cat, I just want to be working on fun and interesting projects and meeting lovely clients. I really enjoy storytelling with colour, so if any potential clients with scripted projects are reading this I’m your gal! (Hint hint)